Running techniques – the same as Medical Products?  //  An addendum

28 Sep 2007 Posted by

This post is an addendum to the previous post and is based on a comment left in response to that post, and some discussions I had with others.

It suddenly occurred to me that what the running techniques are doing is the SAME THING as is done in the medical industry. For example, let’s compare an anti-inflammatory tablet, prescribed for the relief of pain and inflammation, with the running techniques.

How is an anti-inflammatory similar to running technique products?

Both will make promises. An anti-inflammatory promises pain relief, return to normal function and perhaps will allow you to perform normal daily activities that otherwise might be impossible. Pose and Chi Running make the promise that you will run faster, more efficiently and be less prone to injury.

Another similarity is that both have recommendations for use, either direct or implied. In the case of your anti-inflammatory, it says take two tablets, twice a day, with meals. Pose or Chi might suggest a reduction in training and they recommend strategies to overcome ankle and calf pain. This is a secondary recommendation. And it was pointed out to me by Anonymous, is something I never really denied, and I steadfastly stand by my assertion that the techniques keep this in the fineprint, when in fact it should be disclosed at the outset.

Then a third similarity is side-effects. What the anti-inflammatories will say is that excessive use may cause kidney problems, stomach discomfort and possible ulcers, and there is a small risk of cardiovascular complications. The running techniques? Well, that’s where things get interesting. Depending on who you ask, they’ll tell you that there are no side-effects, provided you do the technique correctly (and this is your obligation). Those who are less sure might suggest that the use of the running technique may result in calf and ankle problems. Granted, they will say this. But it’s not disclosed on ‘purchase’, whereas the medical industry requires that the side effects be established before the product is even on the shelf.

So by the time you take your anti-inflammatory and pop it, you can be sure that what you are taking has been tested in laboratories, in animals and in humans. They have done extensive testing to know:

  1. Does it work?
  2. How much do you need to ensure that it works?
  3. Are there side effects and when do they occur?

But there is ONE difference – and it’s key

Is this the same as Pose and Chi? Answer – no. Firstly, NOT A SINGLE longitudinal study has been done to examine the efficacy of either. One study on Pose, and that produced results that have been used for marketing purposes, but could just as easily have gone the other way – imagine the following tagline: “Research suggests that this technique will increase your risk of ankle injury!” Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it! But that’s what happened, and so what was then done was a campaign to educate and inform potential ‘customers’ of this risk. That’s the ‘education’ that is claimed.

Related to this is that no one has yet accurately established the dosage of a running technique. So we’ll hear that you should “reduce” your training, practice the drills etc. We’ve already described the problems with that one – is it a viable and realistic proposition to “sell” a product that requires this from runners? I don’t believe so. But more than this, there’s no set criteria for how it gets implemented – it’s every man and women for themselves, and if the technique doesn’t work, well, that’s just too bad.

So perhaps the better comparison to make is between running techniques and weight loss supplements. You buy a weight loss supplement and it promises “Lose 5kg in 2 weeks!”, or “Toned and lean, guaranteed!”. So you buy the supplement and nothing happens. No weight loss. If you complain, you learn that it’s never the manufacturer’s fault, it’s YOURS because you failed to notice the fineprint that says you need to exercise 6 times a week and follow a restricted diet! That’s irrelevant because you buy the product to do its job. You don’t buy the weight loss supplement that promises: “Guaranteed weight loss IF you train 6 times a week and eat less food”. That’s the problem – liability rests with the customer and there are no guarantees. Just like with a running technique that is taught to a ‘mass market’.

So what we have is a “comparison” which I make for illustrative purposes only. But really, we are hearing claims made about a product that is not proven to work, not proven to safe in the long term and yet is still prescribed as a ‘treatment’ for injury prevention. That’s not a product that stands up to stringent standards.

And let me re-iterate that I actually think that the principles behind Pose and Chi are sound. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that in many aspects, Pose and Chi do the best job of explaining certain biomechanical principles that I’ve seen. Conceptually, they are fantastic. But the issue here is whether the wholesale teaching of running technique is BETTER THAN the simply applying the same principles on a case by case basis. That’s the real issue, let’s not confuse that with marketing smokescreens and mirrors…Does the teaching of a running technique over the course of a weekend or through a DVD or book do a better job on running technique than simply making changes from one individual to the next? The answer has to be no…

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